Everything You Need To Know About Conservatives’ Latest Marriage Equality Brainfart
It is an Extremely Bad Idea.
In case you missed it, the latest Very Bad Idea to come from the government is this: a voluntary postal plebiscite on marriage equality.
This bad idea sounds simple enough: the government sends a letter to everyone in Australia saying “do you think the gays should be allowed to get hitched”, Australians write “Yeah/nah” on the paper and send it back. We tally up the votes and bingo bango, I can either start shopping for wedding frocks or I can drink away the pain.
In the Hall of Fame of bad ideas, this bad idea has its own wing. If the plebiscite is like your terrible racist uncle of a bad idea, a voluntary postal plebiscite is your delinquent cousin who’s always asking for money.
This Is A Very Bad Idea
You can tell a bad idea by the company it keeps, and this bad idea is surrounded by some real doozies.
The idea was first floated at the Queensland LNP’s state convention, with the strong backing of Senator Barry O’Sullivan. He reckons a postal plebiscite is the “only sensible solution” to Australia’s marriage equality impasse.
The advantage, O’Sullivan reckons, is that the government doesn’t need to pass any legislation for a voluntary vote, meaning it can just hold a vote whenever it wants.
O’Sullivan is not a supporter of marriage equality.
The idea was so bad that no one really took it seriously, but then conservative standard bearer Peter Dutton got behind it. He says it’s the best way to get marriage equality off the agenda before the next election.
Dutton doesn’t appear to support marriage equality either, but he at least says the parliament should follow the result of a plebiscite.
Today former PM Tony Abbott gave the bad idea his backing for the first time, saying that while a voluntary vote is not ideal, it’s better than letting parliament decide.
Also backing the idea is the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton. He really, really doesn’t support marriage equality.
Meanwhile the postal plebiscite is opposed by everyone on the “Yes” side of the marriage equality debate, including moderate government MPs who just want to get on with a parliamentary vote ASAP.
If the only people who back this bad idea are people who don’t want to see marriage equality in Australia…. maybe it’s because they know this idea won’t work.
The truth is this is just the latest delaying tactic by the right-wing of the Coalition, which has been working to delay the inevitable ever since Tony Abbott introduced the idea of a plebiscite — the Patient Zero of bad ideas — way back in 2015.
A voluntary postal plebiscite is a bad idea for a number of reasons, the main one being that it favours the “No” vote. Young people, who overwhelmingly support marriage equality, are much less likely to actually bother sending their form back. (Have you ever ignored a pile of bills hoping it would go away? Conservatives are betting you’ll do it again.)
There’s also a whole heap of Aussies who aren’t super passionate about marriage equality, but when push comes to shove, they’ll support it. If you’re not really passionate about an idea, are you likely to walk to the post box to get behind it? Probably not.
Meanwhile, as the number of people opposing marriage equality dwindles, those people are getting more and more passionate about the issue. You can bet they’ll do everything in their power to mobilise their shrinking base for a postal vote.
In a close battle between a passionate minority and an apathetic majority, I know where my money is.
Are There Other Reasons This Is A Very Bad Idea? You Betcha
Australia Post sucks. Have you ever been sitting at home waiting for a package, only to find that little note slipped under your door saying no one was home to accept the delivery? Imagine that system, but for 16 million voters.
But Will The Result Be Bad? (Yes, It Will)
There’s enough wiggle room in a voluntary postal vote that whichever side loses, you can bet they won’t accept the result. The “Yes” team has always said a plebiscite is illegitimate and the “No” side has a pre-prepared list of excuses as to why it’s losing the debate (you can expect a lot of complaints about “foreign donations” or unfair questions).
Whatever the result, the debate won’t end with a postal plebiscite.
Of course, whichever side wins will claim the victory is completely legit. It’s hypocritical, but welcome to politics.
And That’s On Top Of All The Other Reasons A Plebiscite Is A Very Bad Idea
These reasons include but are not limited to: MPs wouldn’t be bound to follow a result, plebiscites are expensive, a plebiscite on marriage is legally unnecessary, it would be a trashing of parliamentary democracy, parliament already has the numbers to pass marriage equality, and most importantly, a campaign will do untold damage to vulnerable LGBT kids.
So the next time you see some allegedly serious person discussing the merits of a voluntary postal vote on marriage equality, just remember, it’s a Very Bad Idea.